The origins of Lancaster castle go back to Roman times with a fortification constructed on this site against the Picts and the Scots tribes. The oldest remaining sections of todays castle are from the 11th century. The notorious Well Tower was added later and dates to 1325. It was in that tower that Demdyke, of the infamous 1612 Pendle witch trials died while awaiting trial. Over the years there have been more than 260 recorded executions in this place, first in the drop room, and later in the hanging yard.
The castle itself was a fully functioning prison until 2011. Through the years many notable prisoners have been held within these walls. Royalist prisoners were kept here during the civil war, and German prisoners during the First World War. Between 1931 and 1937 the castle was a training base for police officers, before once more opening as a prison in 1955.
A visit to Lancaster Castle today will give you the opportunity to explore the men’s wing of the prison with it’s 54 cells across three floors. There is also the execution yard, the debtors prison, the Felon’s Tower, and, of course, the Well Tower to explore.
With such a rich history of bloodshed and violence going back at least 1000 years it is no surprise that there have been so many reports of supernatural activity here over the years.
You can never be sure where in the castle you will experience an unexpected footstep or sound. The Courtroom has often been the scene for ghostly whispering and unexplained footsteps, while crying has been heard coming from the Barristers Library. In the cell that once housed the Pendle witches blue orbs have been observed by visitors. Old Demdyke herself is believed to still haunt the cell where she died.
Apparitions have been reported numerous times at the castle. One legend tells of the Black Monk, who was hanged at the castle and is today often seen walking around the ground level of the castle. In the part of the castle formerly occupied as a prison there were frequent reports of a young girl seen running along the corridors. She was often accompanied either by a middle-aged or elderly woman.
It was 2013 before any of these occurrences were captured on film. On Monday 28th January security footage recorded a shadowy figure walking inside the gatehouse entrance of the castle. While this has yet to be repeated visitors to the castle during the daylight frequently report being pushed by unseen hands.
Lancaster castle today is a place to savour the experience of an authentic Norman castle. You never know what may happen here, so come prepared for the unexpected.